Let’s indulge in a little 1970s revisionism with 20-20 hindsight. In the quarterback-rich draft of 1971, Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini went 1-2-3 at the top of the draft. Lynn Dickey was the next quarterback taken in round three, by Houston, the same team that had selected Pastorini. After Dickey, Kenny Anderson went to Cincinnati in the third, Joe Theisman to Miami in the fourth and Scott Hunter to Green Bay in the sixth.
Hunter, there’s the rub for Packer fans. New coach Dan Devine had made an excellent trade with Denver to acquire defensive end Alden Roche and Denver’s top pick for washout quarterback Don Horn and Green Bay’s top pick. The trade enabled the Packers to move up in the first round to nab star runner John Brockington and get a useful defensive end in Roche. Devine had coached against Dickey in college the last three seasons in the Big Eight Conference, with Devine at Missouri and Dickey at Kansas State, so the replacement for ailing Bart Starr should have been clear. Unfortunately, Dan was not impressed enough with Lynn to select him in the second round instead of another running back, Virgil Robinson of Grambling, who ended up playing two years as a backup with the Saints.
So what may have happened had the Packers taken Dickey in 1971? Maybe Dickey avoids the dislocated and broken hip he suffered in 1972 from being ground into the Astrodome turf. Maybe he, not rag-armed Scott Hunter, gets to hand off to Brockington and Lane to win a division title in 1972, with the added bonus of the team having a quarterback who can throw the ball downfield if an opposing defense lines up in a five-man front.
And how might it have affected the draft if Green Bay were able to add more depth to its young team rather than trading several high draft picks for Jim Del Gaizo and John Hadl and wasting a number one on Jerry Tagge? Let’s take this year by year:
- 1971 – rather than Hunter in the sixth round, Devine can select WR Mel Gray whom he coached at Missouri.
- 1972 – rather than Jerry Tagge at number one, Green Bay could take RB Franco Harris or S Thom Darden or WR Mike Siani. Let’s say Siani to fill the weakness at wideout.
- 1974 – Del Gaizo second rounder could be TE Dave Caspar or LB Jack Lambert or LB Matt Blair. Let’s say Caspar to really beef up the offense.
- 1975 – First re-sign Ted Hendricks
- 1975 – Hadl first rounder could be either DT Mike Fanning or G Dennis Harrah
- 1975 – Hadl second rounder could be DT Louie Kelcher or DE Fred Dean
- 1975 – Del Gaizo second rounder could be WR Fred Solomon or DT Doug English
- 1975- Hadl third rounder could be LB Bob Breunig
- 1976 – Hadl first rounder could be T Dennis Lick, CB Mario Clark or DE Kim Bokamper
- 1976 – Hadl second rounder could be G Randy Cross or WR Sammy White
So in 1976, Bart Starr does not have to trade for Dickey; he’s already on a Packers’ team that includes Mel Gray, Mike Siani, Dave Caspar, Dennis Harrah, Fred Dean, Doug English, Bob Breunig, Ted Hendricks, Mario Clark and Randy Cross.
Elegant, eh? Sounds like a contender.
(adapted from my forthcoming book, Green Bay Gold)
On the left, 1951 Topps-style colorized custom mashup; on the right, 1976 custom mashup